A Glimpse of Stocking Scandalizes Romance Writers, Fans

By Neal Comment

mancusi-maverick-shomi.jpgUnfortunately, neither ‘Cat could make it to the Romance Writers of America convention in Dallas last weekend, but I kept up-to-date by checking in on the Smart Bitches, Trashy Books blog regularly—and long after everyone had gone home, folks were still talking about those authors from Dorchester‘s new sci-fi/romance imprint, Shomi, who’d shown up for their signing in cosplay gear. Many attendees felt that Marianne Mancusi (far left) and Liz Maverick were undermining the romance genre’s dignity with their mini-skirts and thigh-highs; as the debate snowballed at Smart Bitches, even Nora Roberts declared the two women “inappropriately attired… as writers in a public, media-attended event.”

“Dressing up as manga-inspired characters was a fun way to promote our manga-inspired books,” the authors replied later in the thread. “We’ve taken a strong approach to branding, and we’re working it.” What they could have said was that their outfits weren’t anywhere near as ridiculous as Sherrilyn Kenyon‘s hat—then again, plenty of other people had already made the point for them. This wasn’t the first time the pair had gone out in costume at a publishing event, either: Shomi first landed on my radar after a film of their BookExpo America adventures was forwarded to us. And, as one commenter pointed out, neither author would have looked out of place at a science-fiction convention—in fact, when they fly out to San Diego next week for Comic-Con, they’re going to look positively tame.

Earlier this month, I met with Mancusi and her editor, Christopher Keeslar, to discuss the new line over after-work drinks. Keeslar talked about how the popularity of paranormal romances was bringing younger readers to the genre: “The idea here is to go even younger than that, to the 18-to-30-year-old women who are already being captured by things going on in other media.” Mancusi agreed that bridging the gap between YA readers and adults was an attractive goal, and was excited about the cross-genre approach. “I’ve always been into sci-fi and fantasy and romance,” she said.

The line debuted this month with Maverick’s Wired, which received a starred review in Publishers Weekly, and Mancusi’s Moongazer is coming soon, then Eve Kenin‘s Driven, and then a short gap until the next batch comes out in 2008. Would male authors be able to join the lineup at some point, I wondered? Keeslar said he’d looked at some manuscripts, “but none of them had the right tone. It’s hard to find the right mix, with a strong relationship between the main characters as well as an interesting setting and plot.” In the meantime, his current authors seem to have the new imprint well under control.